First Aid for Broken Bones: What to Do

A broken bone is something that needs immediate first aid, and in this article we will be talking about what to do.

What are the best first aid practices for broken bones?

Short Answer: Prioritizing the safety and well-being of the injured person

  • Controlling the bleeding is one first aid practice you can do 
  • Applying a cold compress or an ice pack to the area will help 
  • Offering pain medication will serve as a temporary relief to the injured person 
  • Immobilize the affected area using a splint or improvised materials

Understanding the Types and Symptoms of Broken Bones

Bones are rigid structures that form the framework of the human body. They provide support, protect internal organs, and enable movement.

They consist of living tissue, and are made up of cells, collagen fibers, and minerals like calcium.

Broken bones are usually the result of a fall or a traumatic event, and there are several different types and symptoms of broken bones.

Understanding them can help you recognize and respond to injuries more effectively.

Some fractures are worse than others, but it will depend on the direction and strength of the force, the bone that’s involved as well as the health and the age of the person.

Let’s look at the common types of broken bones and their associated symptoms:

Open fracture

An open fracture, also known as a compound fracture, occurs when the broken bone breaks through the skin.

Symptoms of these fracture are:

  • A visible break or wound in the skin exposing the bone
  • An open bone fracture is characterized by a wound or break in the skin that exposes the broken bone. The bone may be visible through the opening.

  • Bleeding from the injury site
  • The injury site may experience bleeding, which can range from mild to severe, depending on the extent of the fracture, and associated damage to blood vessels.

  • Severe pain
  • Open bone fractures are typically connected with significant pain at the site of the injury. The pain may be sharp, intense and worsen with any sort of movement.

    Clinical diagnosis of the condition involves evaluating the dimensions and characteristics of the external wound, along with obtaining bone radiographs at the site where the soft tissue injury has occurred.

Closed fracture

A closed skin fracture is when the broken bone does not penetrate through the skin as it is still intact. There is no visible puncture or open wound.

Symptoms of these fractures are:

  • Swelling and bruising around the affected area
  • Swelling and bruising may occur around the area of the fracture as the body’s natural response to injury.

    The intensity of the pain can vary depending on the severity and location of the fracture.

  • Numbness or tingling
  • In certain fractures, nerve compression or injury can lead to sensations of numbness, tingling, or loss of feeling in the area below the fracture.

  • Difficulty and inability to move the injured limb or joint
  • Pain may be aggravated by attempting to move the injured area, or applying pressure to the site of the fracture.

    A bending, jarring or twisting motion to the bones is when fractures generally happen.

Hairline fracture

These fractures are small cracks or fractures that occur due to repetitive stress or a fall. The bones of the leg and foot are most prone to hairline fractures.

Additionally, the ankle bones and the heel are other places where the impact is as such because the bones are thin.

Symptoms may include:

  • Tenderness and swelling at the site of fracture
  • The area around the hairline fracture may be tender to the touch. Pressing on the affected area can elicit pain. Mild swelling will also be present around the site.

    The swelling is not usually as prominent as with more severe fractures.

  • Pain and discomfort that worsens with activity
  • Certain movements or activity may trigger or worsen the pain. For example, bending the affected joint or putting weight on the injured limb may cause discomfort for the person.

  • Pain that can be relieved with rest
  • Resting and avoiding activities that aggravate the injury will provide some relief from the pain experienced with a hairline fracture.

    This type of fracture is common with athletes, especially when the sport involves a lot of jumping and running.

Greenstick fracture

Greenstick fractures occur mainly in children younger than 10 years, where the bones bends and cracks, but does not fully break.

The symptoms from these type of fractures include:

  • A visible deformity or uneven appearance of the affected area
  • A greenstick fracture may cause a visible deformity or an uneven appearance of the affected area.

    The bone may appear bent rather than completely broken.

  • Difficulty moving or using the limb
  • The child may have difficulty moving the affected limb or joint. There could also be a loss of normal range of motion or stiffness.

  • Bruising
  • In some cases, bruising or discoloration of the skin might be present around the fracture site due to internal bleeding.

    The reason it is called a ‘greenstick’ fracture is because the fracture looks similar to what happens when a small tree branch breaks.

Note that the symptoms could vary depending on the specific bone involved and the severity of the type of fracture.

If you suspect it is an open or closed fracture, hairline fracture or greenstick fracture make sure you seek proper medical attention for proper diagnosis, evaluation and treatment.

How to Administer First Aid for Broken Bones in Emergency Situations

When it comes to administering first aid for broken bones in emergency situations, you can follow these steps:

Evaluate situation

Ensure your own safety and assess the scene to determine if there are any immediate dangers or hazards.

Call for medical help

Dial emergency services or seek immediate medical help. A broken bone requires a professional medical evaluation and treatment.

Keep the person still

Advise the injured person to avoid moving the affected limb or joint to prevent any further injury and potential complications.

Immobilize the injury

If possible, immobilize the broken bone and nearby joints using splints or improvised materials. Place the splints on each side of the fracture to prevent any movement.

Apply cold compress

If there is swelling and pain, you can apply a cold compress or ice pack wrapped in a cloth to the injured area.

This will help with the swelling and alleviate the discomfort that will be felt by the person.

Offer pain medication

This can be done as long as it is appropriate, if the person is conscious and able to take medications, you can offer over-the-counter pain relievers following proper dosage instructions.

Note that you need to consult medical professionals or follow local protocols before administering any medication.

Remember that administering first aid for broken bones in only a temporary measure until professional medical help can be obtained.

The above are just general guidelines and may vary based on specific circumstances and first aid training.

When to Seek Medical Attention for Broken Bones

It’s safe to say that most bone fractures are not life-threatening, but that does not mean they don’t need medical attention.

There are many signs and symptoms for when you need to contact emergency services for broken bones:

Open fracture

If the broken bone has pierced through the skin or if there is an open wound associated with the fracture, it is considered an emergency.

Immediate medical attention is needed to clean the wound, prevent infection, and stabilize the fracture.

Severe pain and swelling

There is a high possibility of severe pain and swelling, and if it is unrelenting and the swelling is significant, medical help is advised.

These symptoms indicate a more serious fracture or other serious injuries.


If you notice any signs of complications, such as swelling, warmth, redness and increasing pain, seek medical attention promptly.

Inability to bear weight or move affected limb

This could be when you can’t put weight on your injured limb or if it is difficult to move it, there is an indication that a severe fracture is in need of medical attention.

Suspected fractures in young children

Children’s bones are still developing, and certain fractures in young children may require special attention.

It’s always better to be on the side of caution and seek medical attention for broken bones.

Even if the injury seems minor or you are unsure, a healthcare professional will provide appropriate treatment.

Timely medical intervention can help prevent further complications and promote proper healing of the fracture.

Tips for Preventing Broken Bones and Supporting Recovery from Fractures

When it comes to preventing broken bones, there are tips that you can follow, which include:

Practice fall prevention

Take measures to prevent falls, especially for older adults who are at higher risk of fractures.

This includes keeping the home well-lit, removing tripping hazards, and installing handrails on staircases.

Maintain bone health

Eat a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D to support bone strength and density.

Engage in weight-bearing exercises, such as walking to promote bone health.

Create a safe environment

Make your living and working spaces safe by keeping them well-organized, free of clutter, and properly maintained.

This will reduce the risk of tripping or falling.

Exercise caution during physical activities

Be mindful of your body’s limits and take precautions to prevent accidents from happening.

Warm up properly before exercising, use proper technique and avoid overexertion.

Modify high-risk activities

If you participate in high-impact sports or activities with a higher risk of fractures, modify them to reduce the risk.

It could be by using protective equipment or opting for lower-impact alternatives.

Let’s now look at tips on supporting recovery from broken bones:

Proper nutrition

Ensure you have a balanced diet that includes adequate protein, vitamins, and minerals to support bone healing.

Consult a healthcare professional for personalized dietary recommendations.

Participate in rehabilitation exercises

Once cleared by a healthcare professional, engage in rehabilitation exercises and physical strength, flexibility, and range of motion around the injured area.

Follow medical advice and treatment

If you have a known risk factor for fractures or have experienced a previous fracture, follow your healthcare provider’s advice for prevention.

Remember, prevention is key when it comes to avoiding broken bones. However, accidents can still happen.

The SURVIVAL SOF Tactical Tourniquet is a life-saving device that ensures reliability during the most challenging circumstances, you can read more here.

Ice packs and compressors are ideal to use for broken bones, you can read the article The Benefits of Using an Instant Cold Compress in Your First Aid Kit.

Related Questions

How long does a broken bone take to heal?

The time it takes for a broken bone to heal can depend on several factors, but it can take anywhere from several weeks to many months for a broken bone to heal completely.

It’s essential to follow the advice and guidance of a healthcare professional who can provide an accurate estimate of healing time based on the specific fracture.

How can you promote the healing process of a fracture?

You can consult with your healthcare professional for specific recommendations based on your individual circumstances and the type of fracture you have.

Staying hydrated, engaging in rehabilitation exercises, following medical advice and making sure to avoid putting excessive stress on the healing bone are some methods you can try.


Broken bones are a very serious injury, and immediate first aid is important before professional help arrives.


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